The Edge of the Blade (The Uncharted Realms #2)
Kensington / December 27, 2016 / $9.99 print, $7.99 digital
The Edge of the Blade opens with a rollicking, adventurous feel—the sparring between Jepp, formerly of the High Queen’s guard and Prince Kral of Dasnaria, brings to mind Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas in Romancing the Stone and The Jewel of the Nile. They have challenges on board Kral’s ship (I challenge readers not to shudder at the “carnivorous fish-birds) but when the pair reaches the kingdom of Dasnaria, Jeffe Kennedy’s newest entry in her Uncharted Realms series takes a decidedly dangerous and provocative turn.
Jepp had been responsible for the safety of her friend Dafne who now laid “prisoner in the clutches of the dragon king.” Instead of being imprisoned for her failure to protect her charge, Jepp is named ambassador to the Dasnarian court, even though she has sampled “the pleasures of their prince’s bed.” A less likely ambassador is hard to imagine. Jepp draws deep on the messages of her youth to keep her mind focused.
I gripped the polished rail of the ship, keeping myself from looking back. Bryn never look back. More than a superstition, less than a magic spell, I’d heard that caution all my young life, told me first by my mother, and echoed by my grandmother, aunts, great-aunts, sisters, cousins, friends, and teachers.
Jepp’s upbringing and the world she inhabits is such a contrast to the patriarchal ways of Kral and his homeland. Kral awkwardly attempts to sooth Jepp’s guilt about her failure to protect Dafne.
“She’ll be all right—don’t fret yourself so much.”
Oh joy. Kral. Just the megalomaniac to make my morning perfect. “Is that an order, General Kral of Dasnaria and Imperial Prince of the Royal House of Konyngrr? Ooh—or perhaps you’re relating a vision from Danu herself!”
He growled in his throat and leaned his forearms on the rail next to me, bracing against the pitch of his ship as we crossed into the choppier open sea, away from the lee of the island. “In Dasnaria we do not heed your three goddesses. Perhaps the women do, to succor hearth and home, but such weakness would not be fitting for a warrior of our people, much less one of the royal line.”
I rolled my eyes, ostentatiously so he wouldn’t miss it, turning so I stood hipshot, daring him to take a good long look at what he’d never again lay a finger on. “Danu is the goddess of clear-eyed wisdom, the bright blade, unflinching justice, and self-discipline. I can see your point—not manly virtues at all.”
Jepp and Kral have testy conversations about everything under the sun but they most often return to the topic of the appropriate role of women in Dasnaria, a conversation that prickles with sexual overtones since they know each other thoroughly. Kral informs Jepp that if she wants to scratch her itch, so to speak, it can be only with him, on his ship.
“No,” I repeated. “I don’t want to hurt your fragile manly feelings, but really the fucking was quite forgettable. I thought maybe you’d improve with practice, but alas.”
Kral is not about to let that sweeping insult to his virility stand.
“I seem to recall otherwise.” His turn to look me over with hot eyes, taunting me. “Once I had you on your back, you squirmed like a kottyr, purring and helplessly happy to have her belly rubbed just so.”
The two are at an impasse. Their lust lights up the ship but neither will bend an inch. Kral says he “could break you in half without trying.” But Jepp has weapons too.
“You’d have to get past my blades first.”
Ah, those blades. Even “General Killjoy” is aware that Jepp’s prowess with her array of wicked armaments is extraordinary. His ship is attacked by fearsome magical creatures, half bird/half fish with the ability to strip “flesh at an amazing rate” right off the bone, and Jepp and her blades spring into action. Even in retreat she is on the attack. When the birds follow two sailors below ship, Jepp slices and dices.
I caught one with a midair swipe with my left blade and threw my right knife, pinning the other to the wooden wall.
Both Dasnarians gaped at me.
“Nice move,” one of them noted, with a salute that smacked ever so slightly of irony.
Jepp and Kral are worthy adversaries and even better mates. In a believable, sensual, hot and humorous way, they wear each other down and build each other up. Laid up in his bed after a vicious attack by the murderous birds, Kral invites Jepp to keep him company.
“Stay,” he coaxed, in a much more enticing tone. “Talk to me. Don’t make me lie here alone to listen to fish-bird scratches. I hate having to lie abed with injuries.”
I could sympathize with that, especially having spent my own time recovering recently. “Conversation isn’t exactly our strong suit.”
“There.” He jutted his chin at the far wall. “In that cabinet you’ll find some mjed. We can share some to mute the pain.”
This is a fine place to leave them—as Jepp thinks to herself, “an afternoon bout of drinking with my friendly enemy to kill the boredom. What in Danu could go wrong?” It’s more than mjed that makes their heads swim when they’re together: they are truly an unforgettable couple—the blade-carrying scout turned ambassador and the enlightened prince of the kingdom of Dasnaria.
Learn more about or order a copy of The Edge of the Blade by Jeffe Kennedy, available now:
H&H Editor Picks:
Janet Webb aka @JanetETennessee moved from the San Francisco Bay to eastern Tennessee. Baseball is my passion: I follow the Chattanooga Lookouts and the Nashville Sounds (farm team of my beloved Oakland Athletics). Social media devotee. Stories on royals and politics catch my eye. Ottawa born. Grew up on Georgette Heyer and Helen MacInnes. I also review at Criminal Element.